The Los Angeles Diaries: Glassell Park Pool


At first glance, Glassell Park Pool is nothing special: a community pool ensconced in a working class neighborhood on the east side of Los Angeles. The route from Silver Lake to Glassell Park takes you along the Glendale Freeway, a free-wheeling highway with road-splintered speed bumps that meet you out of nowhere and mimic that nauseating rollercoaster-drop feeling. Flanked by the dust-speckled silhouette of the Angeles National Forest, the Glendale Freeway feels like light years away from the great, big plastic bubble that is Los Angeles proper. Once you turn off onto N Eagle Rock Blvd, the lane skirts along with nondescript features, excluding a black awning that reads “Habitat Coffee,” a symbol of nudging gentrification in this historically Spanish enclave.

A residential neighborhood during the day is a serial driver’s dream: endless parking spots—many of which you can glide into and avoid the periodic woes of parallel parking. When I’m stressed out, parallel parking is the bane of my existence. My spatial perception tends to fade into some far back crevice of my brain that’s being taken over by anxious marching ants and I just say “FUCK IT” while circling around 10 more times to find a spot I can pull into with zero effort. Yes, that also acts as a metaphor for my life. Luckily, Glassell Park Pool has a parking lot to avoid such clashes, but locals know to steer clear of the pool around 4-5 p.m. when elementary-aged kids from the local school congregate for swim lessons and some form of water polo. Water polo is typically associated with wealthy, white conservative kids who grow up hiding all sorts of sordid secrets from their families; but the kids at GPP completely annihilate this stereotype.

I have one “swimmers” bathing suit I bought in an Israeli swim shop when I lived in the dorms at Tel Aviv University. It’s a modest one piece that reads “SPEEDO” in orange font and makes me feel like an Olympic medalist, as opposed to a girl/woman (Goman?) who swims 15 laps, does Tracy Anderson arms under water, and calls it a day. There is nothing like underwater resistance and don’t let anyone tell you differently! The goggles are from the GPP store, which also functions as the greeting area and cubed-glass-case space where a swim docent admits you with one carnival-red ticket after you pay a refreshingly cheap $3 fee. Whenever I go there—as opposed to a $26 hot yoga class—I think ‘this is what it must have felt like to exist in the 1960s, when that amount of money could actually buy you 22 pounds of steak. Or 14 tubes of toothpaste. Or 12 cans of hairspray.' Shockingly this is not information off the top of my head, but from a website called, “Remembering what a buck could get you in the 1960s.” I think it’s important to note that these could be essential items if you're planning to throw a bacchanalian dinner party that requires fresh breath and a minted hairdo. 

There’s nowhere else in the world (besides space) where you can feel entirely weightless besides water. Propelling my entire body forward under water makes me feel like Gumby wading through a gelatinous mold. OR SOMETHING. Beginning with the front crawl and transitioning into breaststroke, my hands take the shape of lobster claws and then flap out like bird wings in the ripples. Because I wear contacts, I always remember my goggles, but I tend to forget those little gummy ear plugs—which are essential if you want to avoid that tunnel feeling when water lodges in the crevices of your ears. Sticking a finger in your ear to aid in drainage feels exactly like when the doctor looks in your ear with an otoscope at a checkup. All you hear for a few seconds is that distinct echo, as if you were summoning extraterrestrial life from some hollow underground lair in a weird basement—or something!

Since I am not a local, I go precisely at 4 p.m. on a weekday off from work. It’s been a while since I’ve been surrounded by a cluster of elementary school kids, let alone rowdy male ones. There’s something grounding about this experience and not as annoying as I would initially think. This is likely because water relaxes me and transforms me into a patient person who gazes around as I float and tread and stretch. An adorable cork brown Mexican boy jumps out of the pool and effortlessly pulls his bodyweight up onto the pavement. Water beads, glistening off him like some sort of transparent sequin jumpsuit, reveal themselves in the sun. It also reminds me of when Britney Spears wore that nude bedazzled costume at the 2000 VMAs. You know, the one where she shockingly ripped off her pantsuit and we all thought she was naked for half a second.

I see homes wedged into the dry, green hills above me and wonder how people can live there, look down and not worry that a boulder (OR EARTHQUAKE) would somehow smash into the land and make all the homes come toppling down. I suppose I, too, live on a hill in Silver Lake and rarely worry about earthquakes or natural disasters unless one is happening the moment I see it on Twitter. Then I panic. Then it's all over, so quickly, like some fever-rush dream that makes you question if it ever really happened at all. Truthfully, I'm more concerned with the homeless people that have been squatting under my house for the past few days. Unbeknown to me, my pothead ex-actor/dad-of-two/weed-seller (in a place where pot is legal?) creepy-ass male neighbor, Will, told me that his highly hyperactive dog sniffed out the peaceful squatters and scared them away. Or maybe Will and his predatory personality/ intermittent violent outbreaks did. I will never know. 

Ok, nothing else. Or maybe I’m just too lazy to finish this until I get a book deal where my editor helps me figure out how to end essays properly. This is just my tribute to Glassell Park Pool in sunny, strange, lovely, lonely Los Angeles. And all pools. And the magical, healing power of water. And well-preserved public spaces. And dogs who sniff out intruders. And even, Will.